Sunday, August 2, 2009
Dr. Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the respected International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, which is charged with the task of assessing future energy supplies by OECD countries, told the Independent:
The public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated...
Oil production has already peaked in non-Opec countries and the era of cheap oil has come to an end, it warned...
The International Energy Agency believes peak oil will come perhaps by 2020. But it also believes that we are heading for an even earlier "oil crunch" because demand after 2010 is likely to exceed dwindling supplies.
Birol thinks that peak oil could drive gas prices at the pump much higher and destroy economic recovery efforts of fragile economies.
He thinks that the pressures could come sooner than 2019 because:
There is now a real risk of a crunch in the oil supply after next year when demand picks up because not enough is being done to build up new supplies of oil to compensate for the rapid decline in existing fields.Birol also things the Middle Eastern oil producers will be economically strengthened by scarce oil:
The market power of the very few oil-producing countries, mainly in the Middle East, will increase very quickly. They already have about 40 per cent share of the oil market and this will increase much more strongly in the future.
Interestingly, Birol advocates developing alternative forms of energy now:
One day we will run out of oil, it is not today or tomorrow, but one day we will run out of oil and we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day," Dr Birol said. "The earlier we start, the better, because all of our economic and social system is based on oil, so to change from that will take a lot of time and a lot of money and we should take this issue very seriously," he said.For background, see this and this.
The Independent gives a caveat to the projections:
The amount of oil recoverable is always going to be an assessment subject to the vagaries of economics – which determines the price of the oil and whether it is worth the costs of pumping it out –and technology, which determines how easy it is to discover and recover.
All numbers tend to be informed estimates. Different experts make different assumptions so it is under- standable that they can come to different conclusions. Some countries see the size of their oilfields as a national security issue and do not want to provide accurate information. Another problem concerns how fast oil production is declining in fields that are past their peak production. The rate of decline can vary from field to field and this affects calculations on the size of the reserves. A further factor is the expected size of future demand for oil.